Best Travel Credit Cards

09/12/2017 09:41 am ET

If you plan on traveling, it's worth your while to have one of the top travel credit cards. Not only can you receive bonuses worth over $500 you can earn points quickly on every purchase, and be able to redeem your points sooner for award travel. That means less money out of your pocket long-term. The travel credit cards can help you maximize your travel plans.

Choosing the beset travel credit card
Dreamstime
Choosing the beset travel credit card

Best Overall Travel Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is generally considered the best overall travel credit card because of its flexibility. Points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through Chase for award travel and you can also transfer them on a 1:1 basis to 11 airline and hotel travel partners including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Hyatt, and Marriott. Many other credit card points are only worth one cent each and can’t be transferred to partners where they can be more valuable.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best personal rewards credit card.
Chase
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best personal rewards credit card.

In addition to the flexible and valuable redemption options, here are a few other reasons to like the Sapphire Preferred:

  • Sign-up bonus of 50,000 points is worth $625 in award travel
  • Earn two points per $1 on all travel and dining purchases
  • Complimentary primary rental car collision and damage waiver coverage
  • Trip protection benefits cover up to $10,000 in non-refundable travel purchases
  • Annual fee of $95 is waived the first year
  • Zero foreign transaction fee

Best for Free Hotel Nights: Citi Prestige

If you stay at least four nights at a time in a hotel, you can be getting your fourth hotel night free with the Citi Prestige. It doesn't matter where you stay or how much it costs, you only have to pay the taxes and fees. Some travelers have stayed in rooms that cost up to $9,000 per night and they still got the fourth night free! Free hotel nights is a very valuable benefit and it's one reason why the Citi Prestige is one of the best travel credit cards.

In addition to the free hotel nights, you will also enjoy the following premium travel benefits with the Prestige:

  • Annual $250 air travel credit
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access
  • Global Entry and TSA Precheck application fee reimbursement
  • Earn three points per $1 spent on air travel and hotels
  • Earn two points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment

If you can meet the $7,500 spending minimum within the first three months of card ownership, you can also earn a sign-up bonus of 75,000 Citi ThankYou points worth $900 in air travel.

Honorable Mentions for Best Hotel Travel Credit Card

If the $450 annual fee is too high, you might also look into the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (80k limited time offer) or the Marriott Premier Rewards Credit Card, which are very close in comparison. Both of these cards have annual fees less than $100 and offer a free reward night each year.

Best for Air Travel: Amex Platinum

The Platinum Card from American Express lets you earn the rewards points quickly on air travel. You will earn five points per $1 on all airline purchases.  Most credit cards only let you earn two or three points per dollar for airfare purchases.

Along with earning Membership Rewards points quickly, you will also enjoy these travel benefits:

  • Complimentary access to The Centurion, International American Express, Delta SkyClub, and Priority Pass airport lounge networks
  • $200 annual air travel credit
  • $200 in Uber credits each year
  • Global Entry and TSA Precheck application fee reimbursement
  • Elevated Hilton Honors and SPG Rewards membership status

In addition to earning five points per dollar on airline purchases, you will also earn five points on hotel stays booked through Amex Travel. And, you will earn one point on all remaining purchases. There is an annual fee of $550 so make sure you will be able to use the perks before applying.

Best Airline Rewards Credit Card: British Airways Visa

Don't let the name of the British Airways Visa fool you! While you can land some great flights with British Airways, it's possible to redeem your Avios purchase rewards for partner flights on carriers including American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, or even flying to Europe on Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, and Iberia.

For a limited time, you also have the opportunity to earn up to 100,000 bonus Avios with the following tiered bonus offer:

  • Earn your first 50,000 Avios after spending $3,000 in your first three months
  • Spend $10,000 within the first year to earn an additional 25,000 Avios
  • Receive your final 25,000 Avios (100,000 Avios total) after spending $20,000 within the first year

By spending $30,000 in a calendar year, you will earn a Travel Together ticket that allows your travel companion to fly for free for two years after you pay the fees and taxes for each trip. If you enjoy flying British Airways, this can be a valuable perk.

Partner flights are also another excellent way to spend your 100,000 bonus Avios. Domestic American Airlines flights cost 7,500 Avios plus $5 per flight or you can fly round-trip to Hawaii for 25,000 Avios plus $10! You can't find a Hawaii award for much cheaper than that.

You can also maximize your Avios by flying short-haul flights in Europe and Asia starting at 4,500 miles. For long haul flights, you can fly on partner carriers like Aer Lingus from the U.S. to Europe and not pay the hefty fuel surcharges collected by British Airways.

Best for Travel Statement Credits: Barclaycard Arrival Plus

When you don't want to deal with the hassle of redeeming points for travel and don't care about transferring points to travel partners, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard is the best flat-rate travel rewards card.

Its rewards program is very straightforward:

  • Earn two miles per $1 spent on every purchase
  • Receive a 5% redemption bonus on travel purchases

It doesn't matter what you buy, you will earn two points for every single dollar spent. If you spend $100 on groceries, you will earn 200 miles. You will also earn 200 miles if you spend $50 on dinner and $50 paying your cell phone bill.

Miles are worth one cent each and can be redeemed for statement credits on your travel purchases. For example, 10,000 miles will be worth a $100 statement credit. And, you will get a 5% redemption bonus where Barclaycard will put 500 miles back into your account to be redeemed in the future.

In addition to the simple yet valuable rewards program, you will earn 50,000 bonus miles worth $500 in award travel plus a 2,500-mile redemption bonus worth an additional $25 in award travel for a total bonus amount of $525 in bonus travel credits. These benefits compare nicely to other top travel cards. And, the $89 annual fee is waived the first year too!

Summary on Best Travel Credit Cards

While there are many great travel credit cards these are some of the best. Carrying these cards in your wallet lets you save money on future travel and be rewarded for every purchase. Some cards can even justify or pay the annual fee by offering complimentary benefits that you currently pay for on a routine basis.

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